An output of Plan Quality Management, per PMI and PMBOK, is the Quality Management Plan and the Process Improvement Plan (PIP.) The first one is self-evident regarding its function and benefits, but the latter is not as clear to understand for most people. In fact, in my experience, most people learn this fact if they encounter a related question on the PMP exam but never actually create such a plan for their projects; nor in many cases have they ever even seen one. And the reasons for not even trying to create a PIP are typical as follows: project teams have not been timed to prepare it, they feel they don’t need one, or they don’t understand how to use it. Therefore, I would like to explain the purpose and benefits of creating this plan.
Let’s start with defining what a process is: an activity or series of activities that result in a particular objective or end. Additionally, the PMI approach, as presented in PMBOK, describes a process as starting with “inputs” related to the process, which are managed using the various “tools and techniques” to acquire the desired “output.” For example, the “Direct and Manage Project Work” process is presented as follows (a partial form):
Though the process’ Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs (ITTOs) are rather broad, because the intent of the PMBOK is its universal applicability, the parts of the process are logical and make sense. However, you, as a project manager or as a team, in general, will have your own processes that contain their own ITTOs to achieve the desired result. In this train of thought, the PIP, based on the principle of “continuous improvement,” comes into effect. As a project manager working with the team, the PIP is there to encourage you to ensure that you are executing the most effective and efficient processes. And this can only be accomplished by planning out a framework for reviewing and evaluating your processes based on their effectiveness and efficiency.
Therefore, just as you develop Quality Metrics and follow up with Quality Measurements, you need to determine what the metrics need to be for your process, and then measure the actual results later for comparison: For example, let’s say one of your processes is to verify the efficiency of your organization’s marketing efforts. The process might look something like this:
In this example, which is part of Content Marketing for lead generation, the process is to start with “raw content” as the Input; then work through it using a program to “customize the language” as a Tool/technique, which makes it readable; then the Output will be the “publication-ready content.” However, if you determine that the output is not meeting the objective you set. For example, if the content is grammatically deficient or uninspiring, or uninteresting, then making changes to the Input you fed into the process and modifying or adding to the Tools and Techniques utilized is needed achieve the desired Output.
In general, I believe that most of us use a type of PIP in our project work. It is the method that helps us make adjustments and improvements regularly. However, we may not call it a PIP. We may not call it anything except “troubleshooting” or “making adjustments along the way” to our project work, but fundamentally we are making process improvements. Therefore, it is best to plan, execute and monitor these improvements using a PIP, which, just like the Quality Management Plan or the Scope Management Plan, and so on, helps your team determine what the intent of the project work is. In addition, the PIP can assure other stakeholders, especially key ones, that you, as the PM, are monitoring quality and efficiencies to achieve high-quality work and deliverables.